Haeundae [Tidal Wave] (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Haeundae</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">Tidal Wave</strong>] (2009)

(On DVD, February 2011) One of the dangers in trying to review a foreign film is trying to figure out what’s a real weakness and what gets lost in translation.  To western reviewers used to firm tone unity within films, Asian cinema’s genre-blending can be a struggle to appreciate.  While South Korea’s Haeundae aspires to present an experience much like the typical American disaster movie, this may not be obvious from the first hour, which feels like an incoherent comedy featuring far too many ill-defined characters.  Comedy doesn’t always travel well, and it’s an even more difficult sell when the film doesn’t seem in any hurry to get to the disaster, or even tell a story efficiently.  The titular disaster strikes after 70 minutes, and the next fifteen are remarkably enjoyable in depicting a coastal city battered by a tsunami: There’s a series of sequences featuring a cargo ship and its containers that makes no sense, but is awe-inspiring in the ways only stupid action movie sequences can be.  But don’t count on any lasting triumph, because the closing moments of the film are taken up with lengthy body counts of characters that don’t necessarily deserve any retribution.  The end result feels like an incoherent blend of broad comedy, manipulative drama and dumb action: Haeundae lacks focus and direction.  The relatively copious DVD supplements of the US edition are hit-and-miss, but they reveal the filmmaker’s comedy backgrounds and their intentions to do something different.  The result, alas, speaks for itself: sometimes entertaining but generally incoherent, leaving audiences guessing.  How much of this is due to cultural differences and strange translation choices is something else worth reviewing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *